These are the words of Joe Hill, sent to Big Bill Haywood, both of them premier political organizers during the heyday of the IWW and violent oppression of workers and citizens by local and national governments. Our struggles pale in comparison to those of over a century ago.
Today, centralized authoritarian government is facing an enormous challenge, not so much from the pandemic, homelessness and recession (as if that were not enough!), but primarily from the change in information access and distribution accompanying the digital revolution. Central authorities have lost control of the information flow to and from the public. In response, they have become more secretive, more elitist, more inclined to develop projects behind closed doors and then propagandize the public to accept their pre-ordained decisions. We see this in all major projects in the cities and county, where the decision making process has been sequestered among government officials and “stakeholders,” a corporate term for those who stand to profit from proposed projects. The public is restricted to providing “input,” in the form of one or two minute statements to the body that has already made up their minds, but are forced to listen to the public in the name of “democracy.”
Today’s editorial by Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers is a perfect example of what we face. Mayor Meyers condescendingly explains to the masses the wonderful ways Santa Cruz City government is planning “to help our community get back on its feet and work toward the future.” Whose future? Not the people’s future, the future of City government.
Mayor Meyers explains to the little people “These sound like a lot of boring government plans but actually, these plans chart a course for the city, …” That being city government, staff and those stakeholders in the wings waiting for their economic handouts.
If we are to carve out a meaningful place in the course of local government and our own future, we must do three things: organize, organize, organize. The Santa Cruz activist community is broad and thin, sectarian and marginalized. Our voice is weak and often contradictory, split among many worthy causes and concerns. We work to exhaustion, lose, then pick ourselves up and move to the next surprise presentation by local government and industry. We are always behind the curve, reactive rather than proactive.
We need to make ourselves aware of what government is planning for us, by becoming intimately involved in the course of government decision making. My Santa Cruz Online publication details every government and non-governmental meeting in county and city government, including all commissions, committees and advisory bodies, special fire protection and water districts, and other non-governmental entities that attend to local government’s business.
We need to form a loose coalition of activist organizations, not as “One ring to rule them all …” but as a means of communication, cooperation and federation, to bring our scattered activities into focus on timely, pertinent campaigns. We have the tools to meld our efforts, we have the links, the web pages, the email distribution lists, all separate and cloistered now, despite their overlapping contents.
I’ll be writing more on this as we move along, with more suggestions on how to organize our good work and get involved in local government. Meanwhile, go to Santa Cruz Online and sign up to receive a weekly review of upcoming government and non-government meetings in the county for the coming week.
We’ve no time and energy to spend on past mistakes and failures. Organize now!